NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of Arrow are present in this review
After a bit of a weaker episode last week, Arrow returned to a fantastic standard in “Brotherhood” this week, which shattered Diggle’s world with a very shocking, and subsequently heartbreaking discovery. The episode offered a superb blend of exciting action and top-tier performances between the show’s leads, leading to one of the best episodes of Season Four at this point!
The episode begins with Team Arrow attacking the Ghosts as they yet again rob an armoured car. Their aim isn’t taking the money however, but destroying it, which really shows the group just how much Darhk wants Star City to die. Oliver suggests that Darhk and his forces are trying to destroy the city so that they can operate out of its ruins, which seems to be the best explanation that anyone has had so far as to why H.I.V.E. is doing what they’re doing at this point.
The episode properly gets going however when another operation has the team infiltrating a research facility to try and study a chemical that is responsible for wiping the Ghosts’ DNA from their tooth implants. In the process, Diggle subdues a Ghost, and goes to ID the man, discovering that he’s none other than his brother, Andy! Yes, after four years of viewers thinking Andy is dead and gone, he’s discovered very much alive, and working for H.I.V.E. to boot, the same people who were believed to have hired Deadshot to kill him eight years ago. Naturally, Diggle is immensely rattled with this revelation, which hits even harder after the intel from Darhk that revealed Andy as a criminal in his own right.
Surprisingly though, Diggle reacts by saying that his brother is still dead to him, and he can’t be forgiven for his crimes, even without hearing Andy’s side. It’s the rest of Team Arrow that strives to give Andy the benefit of the doubt, particularly Oliver, which is a cool way for the show to play with viewers’ expectations for how Diggle will react to the news that his brother is alive. This also leads into a series of fantastic dialogue scenes, where Diggle and Oliver intensely discuss how to proceed with the news of Andy, with Oliver eventually revealing that he wants to cling to the hope of Andy still being good, because he wants to believe that there’s no darkness that a man can touch that he couldn’t come back from. Diggle rightfully points out however that this kind of thinking is what got Oliver wrapped up in the League of Assassins towards the end of last season. It seems like a problem with no right answer, and both Stephen Amell and David Ramsey really shone with their fantastically emotional performances during these scenes.
At the same time, Thea is also facing a predicament, as the sating of her bloodlust is now wearing off, leading to her slowly becoming unstable and violent again. Merlyn pays her a visit, after some rejected phone calls by Thea, and offers a solution; Thea can hunt lowlifes, starting with a pedophile that has repeatedly dodged conviction, to sate her bloodlust, and simultaneously do Star City a favour. It’s honestly not a terrible idea, though Thea is against it, even as her latest date with Alex is interrupted by a sleazeball that tries to hit on Thea a bit too aggressively, and gets beaten half to death in the middle of a diner for it. As much as this did effectively illustrate the problem of Thea ignoring her bloodlust, it was the one point of the episode that really strained credibility. How was Thea not arrested for this? How was Oliver’s campaign not damaged from it? Thea herself even points out towards the end of the episode that there were no consequences for brutally beating the guy in front of a bunch of people, but even Alex just brushes it off. Thea’s in the public eye throughout Star City. It’s not like she can skirt away unnoticed after an incident like that!
We also learn, surprisingly, that, despite his claims last week, Ray is not actually leaving the proximity of Felicity. After hanging out in the Queen loft and tinkering for a bit, he helps isolate traces of sodium flouride in the tooth that Team Arrow found, pinpointing the location of the Ghosts’ base in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. Ray even dons his A.T.O.M. Suit to participate in the climactic action scene, which has Team Arrow extracting Andy, and Thea narrowly surviving an encounter with Damien Darhk, as it’s revealed that Darhk’s magic not only doesn’t work on her, but that it both weakens him, and cures Thea’s bloodlust, at least temporarily. This leads to Thea calling Merlyn back to tell him of the alternate way to deal with her murderous cravings, though we don’t see what comes of it this week.
The real stars of Arrow this week, like I said, were the various action scenes and dramatic bits. The action choreography was some of the best seen all season so far, with each action scene in the episode feeling especially ambitious and exciting. Lengthy tracking shots play out in several sequences, and all of them give the scraps with the Ghosts a particularly grand sense of scale and intensity. For television standards, it’s damn fine fisticuffs!
Oliver also encounters Damien Darhk under his civilian identity for the first time this week, after Darhk attends a rally of his, and encourages him to abandon his plan to clean up the polluted bay in the middle of the city. Oliver briefly considers if the alliance with Darhk will bring any benefits to the city, despite the adamant refusal of his team to play along, and naturally, by the end of the episode, Oliver publicly announces, mere feet away from Darhk, that he will pledge to clean up the bay, and never stop fighting for the city. It’s a not-so-thinly veiled threat to Darhk, and it was actually a pretty cool note for this episode to end on, particularly in keeping with the theme of doing things in broad daylight, as opposed to the shadows.
The flashbacks also improved considerably this week, with Oliver dealing with the fallout of having to murder the prisoner that attacked him during the flashbacks of last week’s episode. Conklin brings Oliver to Reiter, though is surprised to see Reiter implement some kind of magical lie-detecting sticks, which reveal that Oliver honestly defended himself, and Conklin did conspire to use the prisoner to kill Oliver. This leads to a scene of Oliver giving Conklin a series of whippings, as Reiter believes that the wronged should make the situation right, no doubt making Conklin an even bigger enemy for later.
Things get further complicated however when it’s revealed that the prisoner that Oliver had to kill was actually the brother of the woman that he saved, and is hiding in the ruined plane. Oliver tells the woman that Conklin killed her brother, leaving out the detail that he had to commit the act himself in self-defense, spurring the woman to demand Conklin’s head on a pole. It’s pretty safe to assume that Oliver leaving out his being the direct killer will probably come back to haunt him later.
It’s great to see that Arrow’s high-quality standard in Season Four hasn’t been disturbed by one slightly underwhelming episode from the previous week. “Brotherhood” was another home run for Arrow after a particularly strong season so far, which beautifully spotlighted Diggle, and upended a truth that had been carried throughout the entire series up to this point, while also leading to lots of tightly-choreographed action and well-executed drama. The episode didn’t seem bothered by its smaller scope compared to several other Arrow episodes this season, and instead focused on taking the best elements of the show, and polishing them to a sheen. Naturally, this had the show operating on the top of its game this week!
- Standout performances throughout, especially from David Ramsey
- Excellent action choreography
- Flashbacks have improved over last week
- Thea seriously got away with her very public assault?